Last Thursday (17th March) in the House of Commons Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, asked the DEFRA Minister responsible for flooding, Rory Stewart, if the Government would fully fund improvements to the Foss barrier. The MP wants to ensure the capacity of the pumps at the barrier is 50 tonnes per second and not 40 tonnes per second which the current upgrade plan will bring it to.
Ms Maskell asked this question following concerns which were made at her Floods Resilience Conference which took place at Priory Street last Friday (11 March). At the meeting concerns were raised with the Environment Agency that plans to upgrade the pumps to extract 40 cubic tonnes per second would not meet future needs. Climate change is likely to cause greater flood risk in the future and Ms Maskell has long been arguing that York needs to be better prepared in the event of flooding. At the meeting representatives from the Environment Agency confirmed that York would be better protected if the capacity of the barrier was increased to 50 tonnes per second rather than the current capacity of 30.5 tonnes per second.
In response to Ms Maskell, Rory Stewart said the Government had “significant funds” for the Foss barrier. He agreed to come to York to visit the barrier and ensure the improvements would be fully funded. Ms Maskell is planning to meet with the team from the Environment Agency to discuss how the additional funding should be spent in order to find the best solution for the city.
Rachael Maskell MP says:
“At my Floods Resilience Conference last week a number of people expressed concern that the Environment Agency proposed to increase the capacity of the pumps from 30.5 cubic tonnes per second. However, the capacity of water on Boxing Day is reported as being as high as nearly 40 tonnes per second. Because of the design of the building, even though the new pumps will have a capacity of 50 tonnes per second the design of the building means that only around 40 cubic tonnes per second is extracted. Anything less than this means there is still a high risk of flooding and we need to be confident that this will not happen.
“I have been pressing the Government for more funding for flood protection in York and I am pleased that the Government have listened to me. I am glad the Minister has been persuaded to fully fund the improvements to the Foss Barrier and I will be meeting with representatives from the Environment Agency to discuss how the funding should be spent. The people of York deserve to know our beautiful city will be properly protected from flooding in the future and I am glad my actions have brought about a result."
The exchange was recorded by Hansard as follows:
York welcomes the investment in our flood defences, but the Foss barrier will be underfunded by this Government for the improvement that it needs, and the capacity of the pumps will be 40 tonnes per second, not the 50 tonnes per second that is needed. Will the Minister commit to considering that issue, to ensure that we have sufficient funds to improve the barrier?
We have significant funds for the barrier, and we are committed to considering that issue. I am happy to go and look at the Foss barrier with the hon. Lady. The calculation on the pumps is an engineering calculation, and we would be happy to look at the flood maps with the hon. Lady. We will provide the correct funds for the correct solution for the Foss barrier